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Posts Tagged ‘bible’

I am so grateful for all the wonderfully convenient means of communication available to us these days. I can be sitting at my desk at home writing away when suddenly I might hear a little tune emanating from my computer and see a message screen appear. It is my friend in Turkey trying to contact me via skype. I go to answer her call – and then I am confronted with a dilemma. Should I click on the mere ‘Call’ button – or should I opt for ‘Video call’? After all, I have just showered and am dressed ready for bed! But then, remembering how she and I have travelled around Turkey together several times, I realise she has seen me in all sorts of strange garb! So I blithely opt for a video call – and soon we are laughing and talking together, despite the geographical distance between us.

We chat for some time – skype is free, after all. But then I hear my friend’s mobile phone ringing. She moves away to answer it and I hear her thanking someone in Turkish and arranging to see them later. But then I hear another phone ring – it must be my friend’s landline this time! I discover I am right, as her face reappears momentarily on my screen to tell me she has to answer her other phone and won’t be a moment. I sit and stare at my friend’s bedroom in far away Turkey and reflect on how different things are from many years ago when we used to contact our overseas friends via letter only. Then, just as my friend comes back, I hear her doorbell ring – and this time she is gone for a while, since she has to run down several flights of stairs to retrieve a parcel from the postman!

As I wait again, the thought comes to me: Could God be trying to get my attention? Could this be a kind of parable of how God sees me in my life in general? Could it be that God often waits for me in the same way I am waiting for my friend to return, watching me as I rush from one activity to the next, from meeting with people to shopping to housework to minding grandchildren to writing to preparing talks to gardening to ….? Could it be that even when I am sitting quietly all alone at my desk, God is patiently waiting to have my full attention, as my mind jumps from the various entries in my diary to the tasks awaiting me on my computer to the books I’m half through reading?

Yes, it is quite possible, I realise. I want to spend time with such a gracious, loving God, just as I know my friend really wants to talk with me via skype. My friend’s calls had to be answered – but most times, I reflect with some sadness, I have a choice whether I turn my computer on and become immersed in all that writing and all those emails yet again, or whether I sit back, open my Bible, and spend some quality time with God. And I know from experience that when I make that choice, God is always there waiting, ready to listen and speak, always patient with me, always understanding me, always loving me.

What is it that causes God to have to wait for you? What does God have to do to get your attention? God is calling. God has things to say to us. So let’s listen – and listen well!

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27)

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I wonder how you are feeling as you look towards the year ahead. Apprehensive? Daunted? Bored? Overwhelmed? Even a little trapped? Perhaps you have no idea how you feel – or perhaps you are still in holiday mode and don’t even want to think about it at this stage. On the other hand, perhaps you are like my granddaughter who asked excitedly when her father joked how he would see her next year, as he put her to bed on New Year’s Eve: ‘So am I going to school tomorrow?’ She had been told for so long that she would be going to school ‘next year’, that to her delight, she thought the moment had finally arrived! Maybe some of you share Olivia’s excitement and anticipation at what the coming year might hold and can’t wait for things to begin.

Some of you who, like me, had a very big year last year might be wondering how you will handle another similarly busy year. As I get ready to launch into 2011 with both my writing and speaking, I find myself feeling a strange mixture of emotions. I have a fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, due for release in June. I have some speaking engagements and an interstate trip lined up, and no doubt more will emerge as the year unfolds. I have a half finished novel on my computer that I can’t wait to get back to – after all, I want to find out what happens in the end! I am thinking of beginning a work of non-fiction – something I thought I would never do. So I am excited about the prospects ahead. Yet I feel challenged and a little apprehensive too. Will my fifth novel find a ready readership? Will my sixth turn out to be my best writing yet, as I hope it will? Will it perhaps be the ‘breakthrough novel’ for me? Is what I write worth spending so much time on? Will it make a difference in anyone’s life? Will the things I say when I speak anywhere truly bring honour to God and impact those who hear?

I turn to Isaiah, one of my favourite books of the bible, and see these words in Chapter 51:16:

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand – I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

And then I find myself on firmer ground. Then I sit back with a sigh of relief, knowing I am one of God’s people and that these words apply to me too in 2011. God tells me here that I have his words in my mouth – surely as I stay close to God, these will flow both onto the page and into my listener’s ears. Even more than that, I know that as I step out into this year, God’s hand is overshadowing me and protecting me. Whatever the year might hold – success, fulfilment, disappointment, challenge, loss, joy – God will uphold, God will equip, God will comfort, God will watch over me.

And this assurance is there for you to take hold of too. So 2011 … here we come!

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Between his shoulders

I love it when I discover some new pearl of wisdom in something I am reading – some truth that really resonates with me or makes me sit up and take notice.  I keep a journal where I jot down such things – and what a feast it is when I look back after several months and read them all in one go!  As I glance now through some recent entries, I notice quotes from many different sources – novels I am reading; the writings of fascinating authors such as Frederick Buechner, Annie Dillard, Thomas Merton; occasional lines of poetry from Mary Oliver and T S Eliot; snippets about writing from ‘The Soul Tells A Story’ by Vinita Hampton Wright and ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott; and of course many, many verses of Scripture that have impacted me in some way.

One would think that after all these years, I would have found and noted every verse of the Bible that particularly touches or encourages me.  Yet somehow God never ceases to surprise me with little gems that literally seem to jump out at me from the pages of my Bible, even though I know I have read these particular sections before.

One such verse in that category comes from Deuteronomy 33, where Moses is blessing the Israelite tribes before his impending death.  In verse 12, he says the following to the tribe of Benjamin:

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.

Now that conjures up some wonderful imagery in my mind.  How about you?  It seems, from what I could find out, that this verse might be referring to the way shepherds used to carry a favourite or perhaps injured lamb slung across their shoulders – which is certainly apt enough.  But the picture that came to my mind is of a tall, broad, brave defender using his body to shield someone a lot smaller and weaker than he is from the advancing enemy. The intended victim is clinging on tightly, arms around his (or her) rescuer’s waist, head turned to the side and pressed firmly into the spot between the rescuer’s shoulder blades.  No one can touch him (or her) while this strong, courageous defender remains in place – he acts as a human shield who will do anything to protect the one holding on so firmly to him.

And then another favourite verse of mine comes to mind, this time from Psalm 32:7:

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I feel very comforted and secure in my ‘hiding place’ who is the Lord, protected and at rest ‘between his shoulders’.  I might be in the middle of a battle, but I can ‘rest secure’ as I lean against him.  After all, I know that he has my enemy’s measure, that he is much more powerful than anyone or anything that might come against me, and that because I am his ‘beloved’, he will never to grow tired of being my shield and protector, until he manages to bring me home safe at last.

May you too know that place of deep security, as you ‘rest between his shoulders’.

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I’ve been told I’m a pretty independent person.  I hate to ask for help, yet there have been times in my life when I’ve been so grateful that others saw my need and gathered around, willing to do what they could.

Many years ago when I was expecting our third child, neither set of grandparents was free to come and help out with the rest of the family.  I will never forget the amazing way all our friends in the Body of Christ rallied round, providing meals, ferrying our two older children to and from school and kindergarten, minding them until my husband was free to take them home.  Truly they were ‘God with skin on’ for us at that time.

Years later, I ended up in hospital for an unexpected operation, just prior to my husband’s sixtieth birthday party.  Invitations had already been sent out – what should I do?  I arrived home from hospital on the day of the party to find my friends from our church had everything in hand.  They rearranged our house and set out all the food, while I sat and watched.  Again, my friends showed me exactly what God is like.  Again, they were ‘God with skin on’.

Over the years too, God has provided people who strongly believed in me, who cheered me on when I studied for my Bachelor of Theology in my late forties and when I later went on to write my novels.  One such special mentor or ‘spiritual companion’, as she prefers to term it, rescued me so often from my confusion and discouragement that I call her my ‘lifesaver’ and dedicated my first novel ‘Heléna’ to her.  She was, and still is, ‘God with skin on’ for me.

We all need such people – even the strongest and most independent among us.  Recently I noticed in the bible how even the great apostle Paul admitted to that.  In one breath, in Philippians 4:13, he maintains the following:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Yet in the very next breath, he tells his Philippian friends and supporters how good it was of them to share in his ‘troubles’ and reminds them how they sent him aid ‘again and again when I was in need (v 16).

So whoever you are, may you find ‘God with skin on’ beside you too, when you need help. Yes, God is always there anyway and will never leave us, but it helps so much to see God’s love ‘fleshed out’ before our eyes too, don’t you agree?

And perhaps you – or I – need to be ‘God with skin on’ for someone even today.  What do you think?

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It’s great, isn’t it, when we meet up again with old friends we haven’t seen for ages and the connection is just as warm and close as it ever was.  It’s like everything else falls away and we are once again appreciated essentially for who we are, irrespective of anything we have achieved in life.  The friendship is real, reaching across time and distance.  We feel valued, loved – and our hearts melt.

Last week I held the book launch for my third novel ‘Laura’.  One friend who attended has known me for around forty-five years.  We were at high school together, but lost track of each other for over forty years.  Then around three years ago, she managed to find me again – and our friendship has become even stronger, as we mutually support each other in our various endeavours.  In fact, she was the one who originally invited me to a holiday camp as a teenager where I discovered for myself how Jesus Christ loved me so much and gave himself for me.  At that camp, the best friendship of all began for me, as I came to understand what it really means to be a child of God and to be welcomed back with open arms into his family.  Just like the lost son in Luke 15 in the bible, I knew I had come home to where I belonged.

Many of my other friends who celebrated the release of ‘Laura’ with me have attended all three of my book launches in recent years.  They have hung in there with me, faithfully supporting me as I pursue my literary endeavours, cheering me on as I seek to bring my dreams into reality and do what I believe God has called me to do at this stage of my life.  They have stuck with me – and I am so grateful.  And whether my faithful friends know it or not, they mirror God’s own faithfulness and love to me – a love that will never come to an end and will see me through all the ups and downs, all the disappointments and successes of my life.  That is exactly what God promised thousands of years ago to Joshua:

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  (Joshua 1:5)

Whatever happens, it is so reassuring to know that God is in it all with me for the long haul.  I will never be forsaken – and in turn, I don’t plan to forsake God.  I’m in it for the long haul too.  I truly want to be ‘God’s friend’, as Abraham was called, to the very end (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23).

How about you?

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‘Bothering’ God

The other day I heard a radio announcer talking and laughing about a particular group of politicians in our federal parliament he derisively called ‘God-botherers’.  It wasn’t so much what he said, but the tone in which he said it that ‘bothered’ me.  These people were dangerous, he seemed to be implying.  These people should not be allowed to gain the upper hand.  This was some kind of ‘plot’ to force their ideologies on others and to take the majority of Australians in a direction they do not necessarily want to go.

This announcer did not seem to be talking about an actual Christian minority party, but rather politicians across the board who happen to have a genuine faith in God, who want to govern with integrity and in a way that they believe honours God, who actually spend time praying, meeting with other Christians in and outside parliament when they can and even reading the bible.  And there are quite a few of them, apparently – enough to ‘bother’ this announcer anyway.

It isn’t the politics of the matter I’d like to comment on, however.  It’s more the implied criticism of the whole idea that people seriously think they can ‘bother’ God.  Is it that this announcer feels it’s ludicrous to believe in a God who isn’t even there, or for some other reason is unable to listen to our piffling problems?  Or is it that this God might really be out there somewhere, but is obviously uncaring about the world and what goes on in our little lives?

Strange, but this isn’t what I glean from the bible.  In Matthew 6, we see how Jesus himself showed his disciples how to pray by giving them Lord’s prayer.  In Philippians 4:6 we read:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told simply to ‘keep on praying’.  Just as succinctly, James 4:2 tells us: ‘You do not have, because you do not ask God’.  And even way back in the Old Testament, God seemed pretty keen on being ‘bothered’.  ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land’, 2 Chronicles 7:14 says.

So I’m into ‘bothering’ God in a big way.  How about you?

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